Ethics: 'Woven into the fabric of our lives'
At Clemson, ethics is a part of every student's undergraduate experience.
Clemson Ethics Bowl team finishes second in national
It's also a competitive activity. The Clemson University Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl team won the national championship in 2008 and placed second in the national competition in 2009.
The Association for Practical and Professional Ethics sponsors regional competitions across the country and brings the top-scoring 32 teams together for a national championship each year. Clemson's successful participation is one of the more visible aspects of the university's emphasis on ethical judgment.
"This intercollegiate competition takes the university's interest in ethics and moves it off-campus into a national forum," says Ethics Bowl coach Charles Starkey, an associate professor of philosophy.
"It's modeled after the College Bowl and it's something like a debate, " he says. "But unlike forensics, there's a focus on ethical issues and the emphasis in evaluating a team is on the thoroughness, the logic, the clarity and the reflectiveness of the ethical argument."
Campuswide, Clemson's Robert J. Rutland Institute for Ethics offers programs and activities that help faculty and students from all disciplines incorporate ethical and value-based analysis into their teaching and learning.
"If we do this right, we convey a crucial message," says Daniel Wueste, director of the Rutland Institute. "That is, ethics isn't compartmentalized; it's woven into the fabric of our lives."
Alyssa Mander, a member of the 2008 championship Ethics Bowl Team, would agree with that. She believes the ethical values she cultivated as a Clemson undergraduate will serve her well no matter where her career leads her.
"Not only in my ability to reasonably and logically explain why I believe something, but also I am capable of finding the ethical dilemma in a situation," says the Winter Springs, Fla., native, who joined a theater group in North Carolina after graduating. "Often the difficulty in our society is the inability to recognize a moral rub, or more simply, where responsibility lies."
That's a pretty good explanation for why the university identified ethical judgment as one of the key competencies every Clemson student should develop as an undergraduate.
The skills they gain in the process give graduates a competitive advantage in the job market.
"Increasingly, businesses are letting it be known they want employees who are good at critical thinking and problem solving," says Wueste.
"You don't usually encounter ethical problems that are no-brainers," he adds.
Says Starkey: "We want our graduates to take with them this set of ethical tools, and the ability to apply ethical principles to different situations. It's an ability to look beyond the obvious and notice ethically relevant factors that one might pass over at first glance. It gives our students a way to deal with ethical issues more sharply, more clearly, more thoroughly."
Through the Rutland Institute, Clemson's Ethics Across the Curriculum approach uses campus visits, summer seminars for faculty and other activities to assure that ethics is integrated into coursework and campus life as well.
Off campus, the institute reaches out to business, professional and civic organizations with projects related to ethics, critical thinking and effective decision making.
In 2007, the Center for Academic Integrity, which had been associated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University for 10 years, became a part of the Rutland Institute. The CAI is a consortium of more than 360 institutions focused on providing resources and inspiring commitment to academic integrity.
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